We woke up at 7 this morning, hoping to leave for Hualian at 8, but the weather was not agreeable to this. There was crazy wind and rain outside, and the east coast was supposed to be just as bad, if not worse. We reevaluated our plan and, after a few hours of poring over the Lonely Planet guide, Carlos and Aleid and I left for Tainan.
Now a quick note on Taiwanese geography. Taiwan is shaped like a leaf, much longer north to south (400km) than east to west (150km). The location of the major Taiwanese cities is really easy (if you know Chinese) because they are basically named TaiNorth (Taibei), TaiSouth (Tainan), TaiCenter (TaiZhong), and TaiEast (TaiDong). (China does this too; Beijing is the Northern Capital and Nanjing is the Southern Capital.) Anyway, we started in the north and were now heading south. Here’s a map, with Xiamen and Jinmen marked as well, for some perspective:
We got there pretty cheaply – a bus for 220NTD ($7) – but the bus was really nice. It was roomy with large windows and even individual TV’s! The ride was kind of long, but it was the perfect way to spend this rainy day. I dozed off and on, catching some beautiful scenery along the way (as it was dry in TaiZhong).
Unfortunately, this just got our hopes up for no reason. Tainan was exactly like the Taibei we had just left – gray and rainy. After getting a hotel, we started a walking tour of Tainan. As far as we could tell, Tainan consists entirely temples and churches (at least 2 Catholic and several Protestant). Not really my cup of tea – plus it was dark and rainy.
It was interesting to compare Tainan to Taibei, where we had just come from. It seems more Chinese, in that it is more messy and less organized (Taibei is very clean and orderly). There are also a ton of English-learning centers, and perhaps even a higher density of Western restaurants and stores than Xiamen. I think the relative abundance of foreign things makes Tainan feel bigger than Xiamen, despite having only 750,000 people to Xiamen’s 2.5 million. I like the bakeries on every corner, but otherwise was not very fond of Tainan.